Billed as a “dub style” IPA on the label, and i have no idea what that entails, but this brew is an homage to a dub/reggae band, the Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad. Thus, the gigantic panda bear on the label climbing a skyscraper, snarling at you while ready to toss a 3-Heads Brewery delivery truck at you… all while the pterodactyls circle in the sky. I don’t know, must be a ref to a jamband song.
Comes in a 25 ounce bottle, a special collectors edition one surmises, and fairly pricey at $6.50. But also notable for the stats on the label: 85 IBU’s and 8.7% alk in this, which is not even billed as a “double IPA” nor even “imperial”. It’s nothing special, just strong like bull. Or like panda, if you prefer. More usual, this is found in the 16 oz pounder can with a much more contemplative panda on the label. I can’t believe i don’t have a picture of the pounder can. I mean, i’ve been through like four cases of those, even though it’s about $75 a case.
Color is only one shade darker than pale, a rich gold and plenty cloudy so we have some weight to the glass. Smells lightly of florals and citrus-type pine. Leaves a thick insistent foam on the sides, so we know there’s body to spare here.
As for drinking this bear, it’s mighty nice. Smooth, a good carbonation which so many beers eschew nowadays, hefty beer body which doesn’t wilt under the stepping power of those wicked 85 IBU’s. And the IBU’s are all there, i can tell you. Strong fruity hops, lightly piney, and since the body is strong enough to carry them, the hops have leisure time to dabble in stone fruit flavors like apricot and plum. The aftertaste is nice, and even leaves an after-after taste, which is piney enough to be a cousin of menthol.
With some gone from my usual 20-oz glass, there’s room to jab the nose in deeper. Oddly, the citrus aromas are stronger than the citrus tastes. The beer body is meaty, wheaty, and beatyer sweetie. Goddamn, but they use some healthy barley in this one. As the glass gets lower, and this is not the 8.7% talking here, but this is a masterpiece IPA.
Three Heads’s standard IPA, “The Kind,” is pretty good. I gave it an 8.2 a couple months ago. Still have to try their double-IPA “Too Kind,” and in fact i have a bottle of that chilling in the fridge awaiting review. But now, i’m a combination of wary and eager. Too Kind might be a let-down, after the intensely pleasurable surprise of the Giant Panda.
One thing is for certain: i will have to see if i can negotiate a deal on a case of these Giant Panda 25-ouncers somewhere, before they sell out, and lay them down for special occasions. Obviously, at 8.7% two of these would knock me out for a day. But trotting one out at a gathering would be perfectly respectable.
Addendum from a later date: did not get a case of the 25-oz bottles, but this pops up in stores once or twice a year in the Pounder Panda cans, and have gotten full cases of those. For a long while, the highlight of my week was Panda Saturday. One 16-ounce dab of delight, once a week.
Now, about rating this bear. Normally, i would knock some off for wickedly high alcohol content. But this is no ordinary drunk bear. It hides the strong content skillfully with an expert malt body and hop-levels which are high but not ramapaging through the bamboo. However, at this point in the review process, i’m 23 ounces into this panda, and can definitely feel the bear in my brain. And i didn’t start on an empty stomach, so this is verified at 8.7% alk.
It’s lacking the faux cream of some finer Eastern IPA’s, but in that achievement track it’s only a half midge behind, maybe skim cream here. Highly recommended for any IPA liker, and a 9.6 rating seems in order, just tackle your panda with responsible caution.
And more addenda from later on… this is an exceptional IPA. The 9.6 rating put it into my Top Five as soon as it was reviewed, and it has stayed there. Did you know that 24 cans lasts for nearly half a year when you have one a week? I’ve been dosing on this stuff for years now, and still cherish it.